Editorial: City gets a big return on its investment in Heart of Danville

May 25, 2004

It is truly appalling that Mayor John W.D. Bowling and city commissioners Chester Kavanaugh and Ryan Owens are so willing to see such an important local organization as Heart of Danville go down the drain.

We understand that the city commission cannot grant every request for funds in full, but we're convinced that the decision to cut the Heart of Danville's funding so drastically - from $45,000 last year to $5,000 this year - will in the end cost the city a lot more money than it saves.

In terms of the economic development of the community, the city has gotten a big return on the money it has invested in the Heart of Danville over the years.

In the first place, only about a third of the organization's money comes from local government. The rest comes from donations by private individuals and from fundraising activities. So just on a very basic level, for every dollar the city puts into Heart of Danville, it's getting three dollars worth of services.


More important, however, is the overall return the city is getting on its investment. From 1999 to 2003, $22.3 million in public and private funds have been invested in downtown Danville. That's an incredible return on the city's funding support for Heart of Danville.

Certainly, some of that money would have been invested downtown if the Heart of Danville had not existed, but it's clear that a lot of it would not have been - particularly the grant funds that have been received. The Heart of Danville calculates that for every dollar of city money it has spent, it has generated twenty-three dollars in state and federal grant money.

And the Heart of Danville amounts to more than dollars and cents. It has served as the focal point for a tremendous volunteer effort by individuals and businesses aimed at preserving and developing downtown Danville. You can't put a pricetag on that kind of effort because it's basically priceless.

Even if city employees can take over the grant writing functions of Heart of Danville, it can't duplicate the experience and contacts of Julie Wagner, the organization's executive director. By the same token, the city government can't go around town taking up private contributions to pay for various events that the Heart of Danville is now paying for or organizing, and it's very unlikely that city government can generate the kind of individual volunteer support that Heart of Danville has been able to marshal.

Over the years, the Heart of Danville has been the "heart" of a community effort to preserve one of Danville's greatest resources - its historic downtown. For the mayor and a couple of commissioners to just blithely dismiss the importance of the organization and allow it to fall by the wayside is really unforgivable.

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